A friend of mine, just came back from South Korea for her scientific research, told me something really heartwarming. She said that Indonesia’s image in South Korea rises significantly, especially after Indonesia’s membership in the G20. Cool! Do they know that Indonesia economy will overpass them in 2016? I hope they don’t.
Well, in all fronts, this is the a golden age for Indonesian global diplomacy. Our international standing has risen. Besides being a serious applicant-in-waiting for what would become the BRIIC (Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China), group of leading emerging markets, it is a member of the G20 group of countries that is taking on more responsibility for running the world.
It is seen as a democratic bulwark against extremist Islam, and as a vital American, and European ally. Hillary Clinton included Indonesia on her first foreign tour as secretary of state. President Barack Obama, who spent four years at school in Jakarta, is due to visit, probably in November, or early next year at latest. As already noted, China and India are also courting Indonesia. So are Japan and the European Union.
As much the most populous country in South-East Asia, and its biggest economy, Indonesia has always played a dominant role in ASEAN. Without Indonesia, ASEAN would only become a sleepy regional pact. There are complete signs that Indonesia becomes more assertive than ever before, and in an encouraging way—speaking up for the importance of democracy and human rights in a group that is too often prepared to soft-pedal, especially over Myanmar.
ASEAN economic integration is underway, at snail speed, and most likely Indonesia will become the major player considering the huge market, growing number of middle class society, and so. It is important to point to this year’s decision by Volkswagen of Germany to assemble cars in Java for the ASEAN market. The underlying argument is that Indonesia, because of the size of its domestic market, should be the logical destination for foreign investors looking for a base within ASEAN from which to attack the regional market.
However, Indonesia need to work harder to improve its image. We suffers unfairly from an outside perception that it is a risky and unstable place. An instructive comparison is with India, which has seen far more violent and intractable insurgencies—from Kashmir on the periphery to Maoist Naxalites in its very heart. It is also prey to many more frequent and murderous terrorist attacks, and has testy relations with a nuclear-armed neighbor. Yet, in stark contrast to Indonesia, it is considered a bastion of stability. In addition to that, our national media seems tireless to bombard with negative news. That is one reason why this blog was established.
Indonesia also need to go and become an influential power beyond ASEAN border, and we have all needed to do so. We have shown remarkable powers of recovery, a speedy and steady growth, after a long dictatorship and sudden economic collapse in 1998. Indonesia can be a model of democratic change, Muslim tolerance, poverty alleviation, and rapid economic development.
Indonesia is a country in progress, a country that is still struggling to meet its interlinked goals of sustained economic prosperity and political stability. But it is inching closer, and its chances of getting there have never been better.
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